Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Know your audience and speak their language

by Johanna Mavhungu

Case Studies of Sustainable Media Business Models: Kameme FM from Kenya and the Al-Ahram Media Group presented to the AMLC delegates what makes their media organisations sustainable. Kanja Waruru, Group Marketing Director, kick started with facts and figures provided by Steadman research now Synovate Group,on media in Kenya.

One of the commonalities between the two cases was that they understood their audiences, but used two different methods to keep in touch with them. Kameme uses research and niche programming to ensure that audiences interact via phone-ins and book clubs – listeners conduct book reviews. While Al-Ahram has a citizen journalism programme funded by the International Centre for Journalists (ICJ).

Kameme is a Kikuyu radio station, licensed 10 years ago when government was reluctant to give spectrum licenses in Kenya. The station was among the first local language stations as such it was criticised for fragmenting communities along cultural lines. However, Kanja explains that because they were sure that this initiative would work, they held on to their vision of creating a sustainable radio station.
Digital technological developments allowed better newsroom systems and archiving to move much faster. Technology he says has increased media literacy and audience participation. The station is clear about their target audience, therefore they are able to practise niche programming, such as in-studio live performances. They have also put an emphasis on human resources by hiring the right people to ensure professionalism.

Structured advertising, including spot ads are given due attention as well as, classifieds, sponsorships and so on. The on-air identification is balanced, news broadcasts start with national issues and then into hyper local coverage.

In Egypt, Yehia Ghanem, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Al-Ahram Media Group explained that the country has seen a rise of about 25% in its internet use particularly by young people, as well as the rise in cellular phone usage. On the other hand unemployment, poverty and illiteracy he claims have been rising as well. Given these contradictory developments the media house has looked to citizen journalism to engage with audiences and create what they call ‘citizen editors’ out of digital natives.

The media house worked with young people from the rural outskirts of Egypt, of the 700 that applied only 50 were selected and trained to produce news in their areas. Yehia states that citizen journalists write news about their communities and as such have promoted a sense of belonging among audiences and in turn created loyalty for their publication. It is clear that donor funding has also been used with a multi pronged aim to benefit the media organisation by improving their circulation and engaging audiences.

Follow Africa Media Leadership Conference debates and presentation on: www.kas.de/amlc


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